Installation of a new professor

September 15, 2021 was an historic evening in the history of the Protestant Reformed Churches and in the history of the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary. On that evening, at a public worship service, the Reverend Cory J. Griess was installed as the newest professor in our denomination’s seminary. He had accepted the appointment by Synod 2021 to this position. Prof. Barrett Gritters led the service, which was held at the Southwest Protestant Reformed Church, located just north of the seminary building on Ivanrest Avenue in Grandville, MI. The church was very full, both the lower level and the balcony. It was a joyous occasion!

Prof. Gritters took as his sermon text the words of the apostle Paul to his spiritual son Timothy in II Timothy 2:1-2, “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” He emphasized the calling of the seminary professor to “commit” by means of teaching the things of the gospel of grace to the next generation of preachers in the church of Christ. He called special attention to Paul’s injunction that this calling be carried out with respect to “faithful men”—men who are not first of all intellectually gifted, but spiritually faithful. We trust that God will use the sermon for the profit of all who heard, and especially for the encouragement of Prof. Griess as he departs the pastorate in order to take up this new endeavor as professor in the seminary.

Prof. Griess will gradually be phasing into Prof. Gritters’ position as Professor of Practical (Pastoral) Theology. The process, as adopted by our synod a number of years ago, is a five-year one. During the first couple of years, the new professor works on securing his advanced degree. During the last three years, he gradually takes over the courses of the retiring professor. The process provides for the mentoring of the new professor by the man whom he is replacing.

As Prof. Gritters pointed out, this is a new era in the history of the Protestant Reformed Churches. Within four years, three new faculty members have been appointed to replace men who labored together for nearly twenty years. With the new generation of faculty members, God in His goodness is making provision for the training of men for ministry in our churches, our sister churches, and other churches with whom we have close relations, for the foreseeable future. It is our fervent prayer that they may stay the course that has been followed since the founding of our seminary nearly one hundred years ago. May God bless your labors, Prof. Griess.

We do not only welcome a new professor to our seminary community, but the new professor’s family. They all attended the installation and at the conclusion of the worship service were introduced to the audience. Prof. Griess’ wife is Lael, a devoted pastor’s wife and joyful mother of the Griess’ seven children. From oldest to youngest they are Simeon and JohnOwen (twins), Salem, Lena, Charissa, Matthias, and Jason.

After the installation, everyone was invited for refreshments. The seminary building was opened for all who were interested in touring the facility, especially the renovations that have been done in the last couple of years. An open house was slated last year but had to be canceled due to COVID restrictions. With the restrictions lifted, it was possible to open the building up for inspection. A large crowd went through the building, many of whom had never set foot in the seminary prior to that evening. The renovated entrance, classrooms, assembly room, library, and faculty offices were open for all to see. Beside the renovations, guests were also able to inspect the newest addition to the seminary, consisting of two new faculty offices and a state-of-the-art archives room.

The Lord has given us a wonderful facility. But a well-equipped and finely crafted facility mean nothing if the instruction that takes place within its walls is not according to the standard of the truth of God’s Word and the Reformed confessions. A competent and gifted faculty mean nothing if they do not provide instruction that is in harmony with the infallible Scripture and the historic Reformed faith.

Pray for the continued faithfulness of our seminary. Pray for the continued commitment of the professors. Pray that the seminary will continue to provide competent, trained men of God to preach the gospel and to shepherd God’s people.

Student body and faculty

Classes are well underway for 2021-2022 school year. We are happy to report that last year’s graduate, Mr. Josiah Tan, is now the serving pastor in the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore. We pray the Lord’s richest blessing on his ministry and his family as he labors in our sister church in southeast Asia.

This year is a bit of a milestone for the seminary. Prof. Dykstra is transitioning back into the pastoral ministry, having accepted the call to the Byron Center PRC. He is fulfilling his commitment, however, to complete the last year of transition for Prof. Kuiper by teaching two classes in each semester. We are deeply grateful for Prof. Dykstra’s faithful labors in the seminary spanning a twenty-five-year teaching career. We pray that God will use him for the upbuilding of the congregation in Byron Center, MI. This is also the first year in which Prof. Huizinga is beginning to teach. He plans to teach one course in each of the two semesters. He is also working on writing his thesis for completion of his Master of Theology degree.

At present, five men are receiving instruction in the four years of seminary training. Sadly, one of our previous students withdrew just before the start of the new school year. Our small class size makes for a good professor-student ratio, though somewhat larger classes would be our desire. Thankful as we are to the Lord for the students He has provided, we urge everyone to pray earnestly that God will raise up more students—many more. The need in our churches is great and is only projected to become greater in the next few years.

We need students! We need students more than ever! Lord God of the harvest, send forth laborers!

Pray earnestly that God will put the call to the ministry in the hearts of faithful young men. At the same time, we trust that the Lord knows our need and will continue to provide for our churches in the years to come. We urge any of our young men who feel the call of God to the ministry, or who wonder if God may be calling them to the ministry, to stop by the seminary and talk to one of the professors or to our registrar, Mr. Charles Terpstra.

Mr. Marcus Wee is in his fourth and last year of seminary. Mr. Wee, his wife Tze Yan, and their three young sons are members of our sister church in Singapore. While attending seminary, the Wee family are attending Zion PRC in Jenison, MI. At present, Mr. Wee is fulfilling his six-month internship at Faith PRC, also in Jenison, under the supervision of Rev. Clayton Spronk. In January 2022, the brother will return to the seminary to complete his final semester of classes. He anticipates oral examination before the Protestant Reformed Synod 2022, just as his fellow Singaporean, Mr. Josiah Tan was examined by Synod 2021. He then also hopes to labor in our sister church on the island of Singapore.

We have two third-year students. The first is Mr. Isaac Peters. He and his wife Rebekah, as well as their four children, are members of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Australia. The Peters family is attending the Grace PRC in Walker, MI while he completes his training in our seminary. Over the course of many years, our seminary has trained several students from the EPCA. As a faculty, we count it a privilege to be able to train faithful preachers of the gospel for our brothers and sisters “down under.” It is our prayer that the instruction the students from the EPCA receive in our seminary fits them to be faithful preachers of the gospel in a denomination with whom we have had a longstanding and close relationship.

Mr. Matthew Koerner is our other third-year student. He is a member of our Southeast PRC in Wyoming, MI. At the end of the second semester of the 2020-2021 school year, the faculty licensed Mr. Koerner to “speak a word of edification” in the churches. The brother was kept very busy this summer filling in for pastors who were on vacation, as well as supplying our vacant congregations. Many of you have likely heard a sermon or two from Mr. Koerner. In addition to filling pulpits—mostly in the Grand Rapids area now that school has once again begun— he is also teaching catechism. All this “hands on” training is invaluable, which brings up the six-month internship that every fourth-year student must complete. Invariably in the first few weeks of the new school year, every third-year student inquires when they might be informed of their internship assignment. Is it going to be in the Grand Rapids area or in one of our western churches? True to past experience, we were not very far into the new school year when brother Koerner asked if the faculty had determined where he would be fulfilling his internship. I had to inform him that we had not yet discussed his internship, but that we would very likely inform him in January 2022. He would have to be patient for three or four months yet. All our readers, therefore, should wait to ask the brother about his internship assignment until after the new year.

We have one second-year student, Mr. Arend Haveman. Mr. Haveman is a member of Trinity PRC in Hudsonville, MI. Although the only member of his class, he shares many of his classes with the third-year students. A new experience to which he is surely looking forward eagerly is his first Practice Preaching sermons before the entire student body and faculty. In their first year, students receive instruction in hermeneutics or biblical exposition and in homiletics, which deals with sermon construction. Beginning in the second year, what they have learned in these courses, as well as what they have gleaned while sitting in the various sessions of Practice Preaching with the more advanced students, they now must put into practice. From this point forward, students make two new sermons each semester for Practice Preaching on texts assigned by the faculty, except during the internship when they make 10-12 new sermons. Welcome, brother Haveman, to the real world!

We are thankful that the Lord has provided one new student this year. Our first-year student is Mr. Aaron Van Dyke. Mr. Van Dyke and his wife Sarah are members of our Faith PRC in Jenison, MI. Mr. Van Dyke is making all of the adjustments necessary to the rigors of seminary training: the long hours of memorizing Hebrew vocabulary and paradigms, memorizing Dogmatics definitions and prooftexts, translating and identifying forms in portions of the Greek New Testament, memorization of names and dates for Church History, as well as all of the reading that is assigned. Our students spend many hours each day in preparation for their next day’s classes, all of which stands them in good stead when, according to God’s will, they are called to the busier and more demanding work of the pastorate.

One very nice feature of this school year is that once again, after a two-year hiatus, we are able to host auditors (sitters) in a number of our classes. This adds a very nice dimension to these courses, provokes added discussion and questions, and fosters among our people confidence in the orthodoxy of the seminary. If you are a retiree or find yourself with a flexible schedule, consider sitting in one of the seminary classes in the future.

May the Lord richly bless the seminary throughout the 2021-2022 school year. Pray for our students and professors. Pray for more students to begin training for the gospel ministry. Pray that the seminary remains faithful for many years to come, especially as the torch is passed to the next generation of professors.

Cordially in Christ,
Professor Ronald Cammenga, Rector